Senator Robert Byrd was a stickler for Senate decorum. And the Democrat from West Virginia would not tolerate any disrespect of the institution to which he was elected an unprecedented 9 times.
I remember when Bill Richardson, who was energy secretary in 2000 and under fire over security lapses at U.S. nuclear weapons labs, decided to skip a Senate hearing where he was asked to be a witness, Byrd was livid.
The following week when Richardson did show up for a Senate hearing, the Democratic senator from West Virginia delivered a scathing public scolding to the former member of Congress from his own party. (Jaws dropped at the sight of the Democratic senator telling Richardson he’d never work in this town again if Byrd could help it).
Richardson had shown a “supreme contempt of the committees of this Congress,” Byrd said, making clear that it was quite unforgivable.
“You would never again receive the support of the Senate of the United States for any office to which you might be appointed,” Byrd said. “You’ve squandered your treasure.”